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by Stephen Downes
Dec 21, 2015

Reimagining Online Education
Steven Mintz, Inside Higher Ed, 2015/12/21


"As long as aviation pioneers tried to mimic birds, controlled, heavier-than-air human flight proved impossible," writes Steven Mintz. "Along somewhat similar lines, it is only by breaking decisively from traditional face-to-face models that it will be truly possible to create the kinds of immersive, social experiences in online education..." Fair enough. Fair enough. But while the University of Texas System's Institute for Transformational Learning described here looks a lot like nothing more than a a bird with more features. It's still a course, and it still "scaffolds, supports, and mechanisms for monitoring student progress." The poor bird is too overweight to get off the ground. Mintz says we need to rethink "motivation, learning acquisition, the student experience, and assessment." I agree, but let's actually rethink these things.

  • Motivation - is best addressed by focusing on areas where the person is already motivated rather than creating artificial motivation-enhancing devices such as games and leader boards.
  • Learning - is not "acquired" or "discovered" - it is grown through authentic experience in meaningful environments (yes, including simulations, but simulations preparing for real experiences)
  • The student experience - isolation, pace and confusion are not addressed by creating a whole artificial community, but are better addressed by tapping into existing real-life communities
  • Assessment - is not best managed by testing and assignments (even if they address all aspects of Bloom's taxonomy) but by actual performance in authentic tasks and environments

Education doesn't more features. It needs authentic propulsion and sound aerodynamic design. Sadly, most educational professionals don't study aerodynamics, they study ornithology.

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10 challenging ways to get the best from your SMEs
Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B, 2015/12/21


In his tweet Donald Clark says the "SME bridge into online learning production [is] often wobbly, even catastrophic." I wouldn't go quite so far as that, but I do appreciate the need to be clear about the role of the SME in learning design (I still remember working with one instructor in the Business Division who used nothing but Excel to author his course - to this day I become very annoyed when people use spreadsheets as text management tools, which is a total misuse of the technology). probably the best advice: "I highly recommend a workshop that covers all of the above and more, to prepare and inform SMEs about what is expected and the rules of the game." Remember, many SME (and many teachers, for that matter) are not self-learners. Often, you'll have to lead them through the process (on the bright side, their children will pick it up much more quickly.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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