Thought I’d try something different this week and strive for an analogy…
Sitting by my kitchen window I can see the leaves beginning the change to beautiful fall colors, reminding me of the similarities between the ecosystems of learning and of trees. Just as trees can evolve and change, so can learning. Consider a tree that has a strong root system and trunk, does it not then form healthy branches and leaves when nurtured by the very environment in which it stands? With proper care, sun and rain the tree will flourish and withstand harsh elements but remove these sources and the tree may wither and not sustain. Just like learning, without the right consideration for how and why learning occurs, we potentially set learners up for failure and disillusionment with the learning process. As educators, we teach to promote learning and inspiration with the highest of quality. My belief is that it all begins in the roots and that in a world of online learning, there is a responsibility and accountability to ensure the roots are strong and grounded in theory.
I was intrigued to read that Ally in Anderson (2008) offered “no one school is used exclusively to design online learning materials”; a statement I would agree with. We live and work in a knowledge era; workplaces must be able to shift and adapt rapidly to change and healthcare is no different. Cognitive and connectivism theories subscribe that learning takes place through internal processes which I believe can influence and impact on knowledge and community building; structures that are needed in these new workplace environments. In my workplace of primarily decentralized staff, it is imperative that new and innovative ways of learning be supported that can contribute to the success of inquiry and knowledge sharing.
A personal favourite theory of mine involves motivation as adults require intrinsic motivation to learn within an online environment. The ARCS theory by John Keller proposed that attention/relevance/confidence and satisfaction can promote motivation by using the right strategies and tools to grab attention, helping to contextualize, encourage and provide feedback all of which can contribute to creating a meaningful authentic learning experience. This is further supported by Malcolm Knowles who described the assumptions that describe the key attributes of adult learning including motivation and that internal priorities are more important than external motivators (Stavredes, 2011).
One final thought that I offer when considering the roots of online learning is the technology itself and the ‘how’; is the learning being enhanced and guided by the technology or is it being constricted and being made to ‘fit’ the technology? I recently encountered an experience in my workplace where a stakeholder made a decision to use technology first before considering how the learning would occur and what types of nourishment were needed; all because of the need to ‘save travel time’ of staff. As you can imagine, this plan was not successful and the learning withered as the learners were set up for failure. Internal motivation was lost as learners were overwhelmed, could not relate to the information and the duration was far too long.
Ecosystems of learning are precious and require care and feeding; with strong roots grounded in theory….I think the opportunities presented can be very exciting!
Anderson, T. (2008). The theory and practice of online learning. Edmonton AB: Athabasca University Press.
Stavredes, T (2011). Effective online teaching: foundations and strategies for student success. Hoboken NJ: Jossey-Bass