Some ways to improve the e-learning experience


Fig.1. Jeremy Hardy

1. Teaching is a performance Jeremy Hardy, The News Quiz, Episode 78, Series 3.

He’s got a point, teaching (and coaching) is a performance – we should plan for performance too, but can I quote him? In a discussion, but not in an assignment – though I have little doubt there are those who I can cite from education and sport who say the same thing or something similar. Not only does Jeremy Hardy quip about teaching as ‘performance’ but he suggests that teachers who were ‘characters’ provided a benefit too – that and the Grammar School Experience.

Where do we get characters in e–learning?

Where indeed do we get humour or spectacle? Both are ways to create memories and so embed learning, even to motivate students and create a following. How can a tutor do this in e-learning, and if they did a Robin Williams ala Dead Poet’s Society would they be sacked? I can think of a tutor who ran a forum who was the heart and soul of the module – probably cost him 15 hours input for the 5 he was paid for. however, if he decided to run a module on basket weaving in the Congo Rainforest I might do it – for the fun of it. Education can be entertainment.

Fig 2. Contemporary Theories of learning

2. There are ‘Multiple approaches to understanding’

Howard Gardner (1999) – reading this in ‘Contemporary Theories of Education‘. Join me on Twitter @JJ27VV as I share. I have highlighted 60% of the content, there are several bookmarks too and it is only a few pages long. Some key thoughts:

Students do not arrive as blank slates:

  • Biological and cultural backgrounds
  • Personal histories.
  • Idiosyncratic histories
  • Nor can they be ‘aligned unidimensionally along a single line of intellectual development’.

So I wonder if there is a reason why at school children are taught in year group cohorts – it matches with a developmental stage.

It may not cater for cognitive ability or drive. A mix of learning abilities and backgrounds affects the learning experience and quality though, it always struck me that, for example a young musician studying in a driven, step by step fashion, largely on a 1 to 1 basis, can progress fast. Far greater tailoring of a range of lessons, combined with the cohort, paced to challenge the style as the Khan Academy does, has to be an improvement.

Fig.3. Sebastian Coe’s parting words at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

3. There are multiple reasons why the Paralympics and Olympics are mot merged – there are benefits of such segregation for learning too – not exclusively, but to focus and scale up expertise and support for specific types of impairment.

The needs of the plethora of disability groups are better catered for separately. Or are they?

When the Games end they must re–integrate with a world where access is far less certain, accommodating or even a shared experience. Is this relevant to access to e–learning? One size does not fit all – creating content that is clear and easier to read, or follow is a reasonable adjustment – however, is it not the case that once along a certain spectrum of impairment, say legally blind rather than sight impaired, or deaf, rather than hearing impaired, or an arm amputee rather than having some mobility impairment that both in sport and in learning – though not all of the time or exclusively – that these people should learn together, as occurs for example through the RNIB or the RAD.

Whilst clearly provision of an audio version of a book, or video with captions and a transcript should be common practice, when it comes to some approaches to e–learning, say gamification, and certainly any social, or synchronous forms of learning then, like the Paralympics, they would benefit from coming together – indeed, if distance and travel is a barrier, and getting a number of sight impaired students together to study, for example, English Literature, was the desire then distance learning as e–learning may be beneficial.

Fig.4. Our guinea-pigs – reversioning nature’s way!

4. Might the approach to responsive e–learning where using HTML5 allows the same content to be used on multiple devices be applied to creating version for devices that are pre–programmed or the hardware is different, to suit a variety of disabled people?

As we live in a multi-device world we increasingly want the same content reversioned for each device – personally I expect to move seamlessly between iPad (my primary device), iPhone and Laptop (secondary devices) and a desktop. I don’t expect a Kindle to do more than it does.  I wonder if a piece of hardware suited to the sight impaired might do a better job of tackling such versions? Ditto for the hearing impaired, as well as for people with physical impairments who require different ways to navigate or respond to content.

Fig.5. New keyboard App

Or Apps that do the same job?

And the module that has set me thinking about the above:

H810 Accessible online learning: supporting disabled learning

With a final thought – we are all equally able and disabled in some way. We share our humanity … and too short lives.

REFERENCES

Gardner, H (1999) Multiple Approaches to Understanding. Second part of a chapter first published by C.M Reigleuth (ed) Instructional Design Theories and Models: A new paradigm of instructional theory, volume 2. 69–89pp.

Hardy, J. (2012) The News Quiz, BBC Radio 4, Sat 23rd September. Episode 78, Series 3.

Marcotte, E (2010) Responsive Web Design (Last access 23:45 21 September 2012) http://www.alistapart.com/articles/responsive-web-design/

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Posted in Accessibility, E-Learning, H810: Accessible Online Learning, Innovations, Learning, Reading, Tertiary Education, Training

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